Monday, 22 December 2008

DANCE ON

THIS IS THE BLOG OF COLIN JONES, RHYL TOWN COUNCILLOR: BODFOR WARD
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The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and not the views of the town council.
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The building that houses Dorothy Perkins and Burton, 38 High Street, Rhyl, has a lot of history. Its distinctive flat roof provided a handy place for fire-watchers during World War 2. The business was just ‘Burton the tailor’ in those days. Eventually second floor of the building became Regent Ballroom then Regent Dansette where The Beatles played on Saturday July 14, 1962.

The photo above shows local band The Strangers who played support on that occasion; they performed regularly at the venue before and after. This picture was taken just seven days before The Beatles visited. The Strangers were (left to right) Dennis Rothwell (guitar), Pete Williams (drums), Jeff Sutton (guitar & vocals) and Pat Shuttle (bass guitar).

The picture was provided by Pat’s widow Mrs. Jane Shuttle for inclusion in my book ‘Rhyl Music In The Ritz Years 1955-1968’, and it is used here with permission - thanks, Jane. The Regent, Ritz, Queens Ballroom and the rest of the dance halls have long gone. Pity that none survived long enough to take advantage of a new wave of interest created by BBC TV's ‘Strictly Come Dancing’!

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Sunday, 21 December 2008

FLASHBACK #4


Butterfly Jungle
THIS IS THE BLOG OF COLIN JONES, RHYL TOWN COUNCILLOR: BODFOR WARD
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The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and not the views of the town council.
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Half a century ago Rhyl’s promenade certainly looked different! The picture above (top) was taken around 1960 when I was a schoolboy with dirty knees. In the background is the famous dome of the original Pavilion which stood  near where the Skytower is now. In the foreground is the Open-Air Bathing Pool and alongside is the Royal Floral Hall.

The Floral Hall stood on the eastern promenade opposite Bath Street. It opened in 1959 as a council-owned attraction and became one of the resort’s most popular features. In due course it passed into the hands of a private company and became ‘Butterfly Jungle’. The building was demolished in the early 1990s. The picture of Floral Hall's interior should bring back memories for a lot of residents and visitors.

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Friday, 12 December 2008

BAGS GROOVE

THIS IS THE BLOG OF COLIN JONES, RHYL TOWN COUNCILLOR: BODFOR WARD
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The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and not the views of the town council.
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Litter and fly-tipping have been big issues in the Bodfor ward for many years. RYAG (Rhyl Youth Action Group) on corner of Wellington Road and Elwy Street, have published a report containing a survey of young people’s opinions. The need to clean up the town figured most strongly in the findings.

Cleaning up the town is not a one-off process. As soon as you clear a space it begins to fill up again. The rubbish in the picture turned up in Hope Place (near the Abbey Street exit). On the wall behind was a notice saying, “Site under surveillance. No tipping. Maximum penalties: unlimited fine and/or five years’ imprisonment . . .”

The situation has eased in the last couple of years but the problems seem unlikely to reduce dramatically. Most people of all ages have adopted a ‘consumerist’ lifestyle. The rubbish is a constant reminder of how much of the world’s resources we consume and waste.

Congratulations to RYAG on their report - I will study it closely. Thanks also to West Rhyl Young People’s Centre (Bedford Street) and the West Rhyl Community Company (Abbey Street) for the work that they do for young people. It is my sincere hope that one day we may see the ward’s elderly people equally well served.

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

FLASHBACK #3

THIS IS THE BLOG OF COLIN JONES, RHYL TOWN COUNCILLOR: BODFOR WARD
l
The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and not the views of the town council.
l


Shown in the picture above is the Grand Pavilion, perhaps the least well known of Rhyl’s various pavilions. As you can see, the Grand Pavilion stood on the promenade walkway, at the shore end of the pier. It was built by the private company that owned the pier.

The Grand Pavilion opened in 1891 as a concert hall; public meetings and exhibitions were held there. The auditorium could hold up to 3,000 people, and its theatre organ was reputed to be the largest in the world. Conceived as rather upmarket sort of place, it slid downmarket eventually as Rhyl began to cater more for working people on short holidays rather than the middle classes.

By the end of the decade, the Grand Pavilion was hosting ‘music hall’ and variety shows, but failed to become very profitable. In 1901, after only ten years in use, it was destroyed by fire. Being made of wood, it made a fine blaze. The organ was damaged beyond repair.

The Grand Pavilion shows that the seaside tradition of building funny-looking things on the promenade stretches back a long way. Also, it serves as an example of how unprofitable businesses sometimes catch fire.

In due course in that location the Pier Amphitheatre was built and later rebuilt, and eventually became the Gaiety Theatre. At present the site is occupied by the Seaquarium. Please click here for info: www.seaquarium.co.uk/rhyl.php

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

SEASIDE EMPLOYMENT

Red plastic bucket and spade for beach sandsTHIS IS THE BLOG OF COLIN JONES, RHYL TOWN COUNCILLOR: BODFOR WARD
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The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and not the views of the town council.
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On behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Chris Ruane MP has sought Rhyl town council’s views on the reasons for high levels of Incapacity Benefit claims and unemployment in some seaside towns, and ideas to combat them. I have sent the following comments to our town council office:

Rhyl seems to have a high level of unemployment because jobless people from other parts of North Wales (and further afield) are being attracted here by easy availability of cheap rented accommodation. My view is that DWP offices ought to have the power to refuse benefit claims from jobseekers who turn up in unemployment blackspots such as Rhyl with no job to go to and no family already here.

In Rhyl the cheap rented accommodation includes small units of furnished accommodation – bedsits and flatlets – within buildings that used to be guest houses and small hotels; also it includes accommodation in caravan parks. All these locations may be viewed as stepping stones towards social housing provided locally by housing associations such as Clwyd Alyn. My view is that we are on a treadmill. When Clwyd Alyn and other social landlords take tenants from the private sector, the vacated accommodation quickly fills up by more people arriving.

A significant number arrive in poor health physically and/or mentally, and maybe with lifestyle problems arising from the habitual use of alcohol and other drugs, and with poor education, training and employment records – and perhaps criminal records. The younger ones tend to wear the uniform of the loser, i.e. sports clothes with or without hoods, and they seem unable to string together a sentence without using the F word. My view is that they are victims of their own culture; it is difficult to see how they could be taken seriously in the commercial job market unless they would accept intensive help and guidance first.

Intensive help for people with behavioural problems such as addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and habitual vagrancy, appears to be available in Rhyl through projects such as SOVA’s day centre in Clwyd Street. The downside may be that clients are referred to Rhyl from other towns where similar services are not available. My view is that we may be on another treadmill. Such projects are involved in resettling incoming clients and drifters in wards where deprivation levels are already too high.

Many tenants in deprived areas tend to be regarded as ‘transient’. This term may be misleading. The tenants appear to move frequently, but they do not necessarily move far. Very often it is a case of tenants moving from one house of multiple occupation (HMO) to another HMO nearby - to get away from difficult neighbours. A number of tenants seem to live in Rhyl on and off, and live in some other town or city for periods inbetween. These patterns of movement are reflected by the number of individuals, couples and families that appear on the electoral roll twice (or more than twice) in deprived wards.

In addition to suggestions made above, I feel there is a case for the purchase and demolition of HMOs in areas where there is a high density of population, instead of improving them. I would not be in favour of compulsory purchase, but the HMOs do need to be replaced by family houses and/or green spaces if possible. While they remain, the HMOs keep filling up again and the social problems never seem to reduce substantially.

I feel that there is a case for putting limits on the activities of social landlords such as housing associations. Whereas owner-occupiers and private landlords can move up and down market as the economy of the town breathes in and out over the decades, social housing - by definition - remains permanently downmarket. Therefore it should not be allowed in town centre areas where it could be a drag on regeneration.

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